While most little girls dreamed of becoming teachers, actresses, or nurses, Marisol Rivera dreamt of one day becoming a whore. Like a boy who looked in awe at a soldier or police officer, Marisol would fixate on prostitutes. She could spot one even when they weren’t in uniform. During the day, whores didn’t look like whores. They looked like every other woman, but not to Marisol.
An off-duty working girl could be walking down the street carrying groceries, and the little girl would stop in her tracks and curiously stare at the woman as if she were looking at two stray dogs humping. Marisol would often get snatched out of her daze by her mother pulling on her hand.
“Let’s go, Marisol,” her mother, Elena, would say, frustrated that she had to retrace her steps to retrieve the six-year-old.
“Who is that lady, Mami?” Marisol asked.
“I don’t know,” her mother said, lying. She knew who she was. She knew who they all were. Everyone knew. Elena couldn’t comprehend why every person her daughter became captivated by in the streets of Colón was a prostitute. Just once she would have liked to have caught her daughter staring at a beggar or a drunk. Elena handled these situations like the time Marisol had walked in on her and Marisol’s father making love—she ignored that it ever took place with hopes that Marisol would some day forget all about it.
“What’s a whore, Mami?” Marisol asked one day after learning the word from someone at school.
The question caused Elena to drop her crocheting needles and bring her fingers to her temple. “It’s a woman who brings pleasure to men for money,” saying the first thing that came to her mind then resuming her project.
“It’s her job?”
“Yes, it’s her job,” Elena said not bothering to look up at the girl for fear of encouraging her to further discuss the topic.
“That’s what I want to be when I grow up!”
Frustrated but keeping her composure, Elena responded, “Well, that’s impossible. Some day you’ll go to college, and any woman who goes to college does not become a whore.”
“Oh,” Marisol said somewhat disappointed. “What will I be then?”
“You can be anything you want,” Elena said. “Anything but a whore.”
“Can I be a doctor like Papi?”
“Yes!” Elena said, thanking God for intervening.
The end of the conversation brought relief to Elena but not to Marisol for she did not want to be a doctor. She wanted to be a whore.
As time went on Marisol learned to appease her parents by doing well in school and saying that she wanted to become a doctor all the while taking every opportunity she could to learn about the trade that really interested her.
Pedro, a childhood friend who used to play in the dirt with Marisol, was her first customer. “What could I do to bring you pleasure, Pedro?” Marisol asked as if she were taking notes.
“Maybe bring some chocolate next time we play.”
What does a boy so young know of pleasure? Marisol knew he was not ready. Her research would have to wait, but it didn’t take long. One day, Marisol noticed Pedro ogling at a pair of bouncing breasts as a woman in high-heeled shoes walked down the street. Ah ha, Marisol thought.
“How much would you pay to see my chi-chis?” she asked Pedro.
It wasn’t until Marisol grew breasts that she was able to sustain a business of flashing them for twenty-five centavos a show.
As her body developed and the curiosity of her customers grew, Marisol learned much about being in the business of pleasing men for money. One of the things she learned was that members of the opposite sex would pay nearly anything to live out their deepest desires, but that they would only tell her those desires if they trusted her. Marisol became skilled at gaining their confidence. She never told anyone’s mother and never shared anyone’s little secrets. Plus, she never got caught, which meant she never had to disclose who her patrons were.
Part of the reason why no one ever discovered Marisol’s side business was that she was smart enough to know that she could not have all that money without a good reason for obtaining it. Being the daughter of a doctor, Marisol had little use for money, though she did enjoy earning it. The church became the benefactor of most of her earnings. It only seemed appropriate being that a lot of her business took place in an unoccupied confessional.
Because of her mother’s vague answer to Marisol’s question, “What’s a whore, Mami?” and the Church’s teachings of the transgressions of sex before marriage, it never occurred to the young girl that prostitutes had sex for money. Marisol’s practice allowed her to learn many methods of how to give a man pleasure, but when it came to intercourse, that was simply out of the question. It was a sin, after all.